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Whether you call them consultants, free-lancers or gurus, independent contractors can add experience and flexibility to your team while saving you money. By using contractors rather than employees, you can avoid payroll taxes, benefit costs and the threat of lawsuits under several federal laws covering safety and discrimination.

And it seems to be a win-win situation. Many workers are seeking the freedom to take on other clients or use flexible scheduling to help balance work and their personal lives.

More than 8 million people, about 6.3 percent of the work force, are independent contractors, according to a 1999 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. A whopping 84 percent of them said they were satisfied with their work arrangements.

But when they try to claim unemployment benefits, sue for sexual harassment or look at their tax bill, some find that they've given up more than they expected.

There's a downside for y...(register to read more)

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